Finding a treatment for thinning hair in men especially, but also women, has been a goal since ancient times. Drugs now exist to slow hair loss, make existing hair more healthy but no treatment exists to completely replace a full head of hair.
Propecia (finasteride) is one such drug that prevents the risk of further hair loss. Originally a treatment for prostate problems, Propecia was found to arrest or slow hair loss in some of the men being treated. Today it is used in the treatment of adult male pattern baldness – Male pattern baldness (MPB) accounts for more than 95% of hair loss in men. Most Australian men become aware of hair loss as they grow older. Significant balding affects about one in five Aussie men (20%) in their 20s, about one in three (30%) in their 30s and nearly half of Australian men (40%) in their 40s. By age 50 approximately 85% of men have significantly thinning hair. Propecia was clinically tested for baldness in women however the results were no better than placebo.
How does Propecia work? The drug works by blocking the formation of male hormones in the skin that can cause hair loss. Propecia is only available by prescription to be taken once a day in pill form. It cannot be used by women of childbearing potential because the drug can cause birth defects. Like any medication, Propecia has side-effects. Men need to take Propecia for as long as they want to continue to benefit from its use. If you stop taking Propecia, you will likely lose any hair you have gained in 18-24 months of stopping treatment. The drug works in men of all ages.
Main side effects include a decreased sexual ability/desire and a decrease in the amount of semen released during sex. This does not carry any other risks, and is not related to sexual potency but has continued in some men even after stopping treatment. The FDA has stated only 36 of 945 men who took Propecia in clinical trials reported any adverse sexual side effects – the number of men who experience these long-lasting side effects is relatively small, likely around 3 percent of all men who take the drug. Other side effects are: a lump in the breast, nipple discharge, breast enlargement/tenderness/pain, pain in the testicles and an inability to urinate. Serious allergic reactions to this drug are unlikely, (but seek immediate medical attention if it occurs). Symptoms of a serious allergic reaction could include: having a rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness and trouble breathing.
Where can someone get Propecia? The drug is only available by prescription. Cost of the drug varies from source to source, dosage amounts are 1mg and 5mg. Finasteride 1mg is off patent now and one source claims the 1mg generic in Australia is significantly cheaper (around $30 for a month supply). For the brand name 1mg Chemist Warehouse supposedly offers a month’s supply, 30 days for around $80 – almost three times the generic cost.